Parent-Edge Magazine Articles by me

The Numbers Magician: Teaching Children Math Skills, Part 1

This is a re-post of my article from Parent-Edge Magazine: Sep 28, 2015

Math is one subject we cannot distance ourselves from – whether we make a career out of it or not, Math is an essential part of life. Math is more than just mastery over basic number functions. It is not all about + – x and divide. It is about understanding how numbers ‘fit’ into our day to day lives and the environment around us.

Does an early schooler notice car number plates and their function? Does she recognise the changes that an added family member brings into the home? Does she notice the change in weight before and after eating? Or how one apple relates to a bean, or a pencil in terms of volume and weight? I wasn’t fortunate enough to get that understanding of math until the time I learnt a new approach to Math.

This article is inspired by the teaching at my daughter’s school – Great Hearts Archway. I thank them for introducing these concepts to me. They follow Singapore Math as their module for teaching Mathematics.

In Singapore math, they focus on laying a strong foundation of Math concepts. The chart you see below is called a ‘Ten’s Frame’. In a Ten’s frame, there are 2 rows of 5 blocks and rows are filled with varying number of black dots. One block has one big black dot. Children are taught to understand how many dots are there without counting on their fingers.

E.g. in Fig. 1 kids are taught to see that all 5 blocks on top are filled; which makes 5 + one block at the bottom which makes 1. Hence, 6 blocks out of 10 are filled and 4 are empty. They are also taught to approach this problem in multiple ways. One could see it as 6 filled out of ten or 4 less than 10 or as times 5, where each row is seen as a multiple of 5.

Figure 1

In Fig. 2, there are 3 dots filled out of 5 at the top. Remember that always, the blocks on the top are filled FIRST before filling blocks in the bottom. However, kids are challenged to think in different ways to fill 3 in blocks of ten. So the teacher will typically discuss how the same 3 dots could be placed in any of 10 blocks below.

Figure 2

In Figure 3, one is filled and 9 are empty.

Figure 3

In Fig. 4, I have shown a 20s frame. After the ten’s frame concepts are founded, one can move on to the 20s frame. I have noticed how quickly kids are able to pick this concept. I observed 4 kids and it took them less than 5 secs to say 16! They did not have to wait to count on their fingers. Here they are quick to see 5 + 5 + 5 + 1

Fig. 4


The Ten’s Frame War game is a game my daughter’s teacher plays in school. It is an excellent way to repeat and integrate that concept while also challenging them to be quick to evaluate without counting on one’s fingers.

Split kids in pairs. Make an equal number of ten’s frame cards and give each child a pile. Have them open the top card and call out their number quickly without counting. The one who has the bigger number gets both the cards. You can decide who wins – the one with the most or the one with the least number of cards.


For pre-schoolers, there is a different way to introduce this math concept.

Make cardboard or hard paper squares approximately palm sized, each with different number of dots, beginning from 1 to 50. Start out with holding card dots of 1 to 10 in your hand in front of your child at his or her eye level. Face the child and show him one card at a time, quickly moving on to the next one. With each dot, say the number aloud.

E.g. – This dot below is number 1. Hence, just say ‘1’ while showing it and so on.

Fig 5

After 15 days of repetition, increase the number from 10 to 15 or up to 20 based on the child’s attention. Repeating this activity with infants starting 4 months, can strengthen math concepts early and set the stage for greater math understanding.

Remember that for children of any age, do not do math and reading activities when they are tired, hungry, sleepy or frustrated. It beats the purpose and is energy wasted because the brain is too busy to fix on something else and cannot attend to the learning.

Another way to teach Math is through ‘Hands-On Learning’.  When teaching 2 + 2, have concrete objects to show them. 2 spoons + 2 spoons makes a lot more sense to any brain than just the numbers 2 + 2.

You can further have 4 toys on one part of the sofa or on a chair on inside a hoola hoop. Then show the kid what it looks like when 1 is removed and then another 1. Then put the 2 removed toys on another part of the sofa, chair or into another hoola hoop. Now the child knows concretely what 4 looks like and how it can be divided into 2 groups of 2.

cups 1 group

cups 2 groups

You can also teach measuring skills from 2 years onwards. One can use one’s palm stretch from the thumb to the pinky finger to measure a table or a pencil. One can use a pencil to measure the length of the scale, the hand, the chair. Then one can weigh objects on both palms or on a weighing scale. How many erasers does it take to measure up to an apple? Do all apples measure the same? And so on. Measuring tapes and scales for real measuring are fun too. Kids love it! Measure their dresses, their favorite toys and even measure them while standing, sitting or sleeping.


We shall continue our math concepts in the following month’s article…

Parent-Edge Magazine Articles by me

The Numbers Magician Part 2: Teaching Children Maths Skills through Board Games

This is a re-post of Oct 28-2015 article from ParentEdge magazine.


The Numbers Magician: Teaching Children Maths Skills through Board Games, Part 2

Last month we learnt about introducing ‘Singapore Math’ and ‘Hands-on Math’ concepts to toddlers, preschoolers and kindergartners (Age 2 to 6 primarily).

Today we shall explore some excellent board games for ages 3/4 to 8 years that teach kids geometry and algebra while also being fun. The games and books I mention here are just a few examples to explore from an array of options available in the market today. My daughter has played all these games, and hence I can assure you of their usefulness from my own experience.

GAME: 123’s

Age 3+

Game 1

If your child has a good understanding of numbers from a young age, you can introduce this fun card-game. Kids are required to match the numbered card with the equivalent picture card. Numbers go up to 15. You can also play ‘memory’ or ‘treasure hunt’ with these cards. Better still, carry them in your purse while travelling long or short distances and play even while you are waiting for traffic to clear!

GAME: Ludo

Age: 4+


Ludo is a traditional and popular game. Kids learn to roll and read the dice, and count the number of spaces to play and move. They learn to follow a certain direction for their player to move forward. Directions like these help us understand the physical world of math around us.

GAME: Crystal Climbers

Age: 3+

Game 3

This is a wonderful geometrical game. There are different shaped crystals made from plastic. Kids much match pieces to each other to make numerous designs or objects. This game improves gross motor movements and eye-brain co-ordination as well. You can teach children, in a hands-on way, about 3-dimensional shapes like cube and 2-dimensional shapes like circle and triangle.

Crystal climbers

GAME: Cash Register

Age: 3+

cash register

The Cash Register is an addictive toy for many kids. They fancy being able to scan items and collect money especially if they repeatedly ‘witness’ their parents paying the cashier at different shops. Younger kids may tear the paper notes or swallow coins. You can laminate paper notes and keep the coins away until age 5.

The register can be used to ‘simulate’ a shopping experience. Let your children set up a soft-toy shop and you can go buy something from there. Allow them to do a simple transaction. Teach them to scan, open and close the cash box. As they grow older, you can teach them about currency and do several types of money transactions which involve addition, subtraction, etc.

(E.g.I have Rs. 20, if I have to pay you Rs. 10, how much will you return?)

The same currency can be used to make rows of ascending and descending notes. You can also make this experience more real by having your child pay real money at the billing center and also shop something for themselves and pay from their piggy bank or pocket money.

GAME: The Mighty Mind

Age: 4/5+ 

The Mighty Mind gives excellent exposure to geometrical thinking. There are different shapes that are used to make simp

Mighty Mindle to complex designs. Beginning cards show kids which pieces they will need to use to make a shape. As you can see in the circle shape in the image, the card shows two red semi-circle pieces to be used. The cards are numbered and increasing numbers depict higher level of difficulty in making shapes. The same shapes are also available in magnetic form with a magnetic board and kids can use the shapes freely as well, to make any pattern they wish.

GAME: Dominoes

Age: 5+ 

DominosDominos and The Mexican Train are great ‘algebra’ games. The coins represent numbers by the number of dots on them. Players must match same number dots together to form connected series. You can also challenge kids to quickly state the number of dots on each peg. Or ask them to match the number on a dice.

Domonies 2

GAME: monopoly

Age: 5+ 

From 5 years onwards, kids can start playing Junior or Regular Monopoly based on their abilities. Monopoly has a ‘real’ time smonopolyense to how transactions occur in the world. This helps kids get a great understanding on the use of money and numbers in the real world. You need not stick to the rules of the games or the length of the game. The purpose is to expose them to number understanding.

Lastly, I would like to share with you this wonderful book which teaches kids to count by 2s, 5s, and 10s in a simple, easy and fun way. There many sites, books and resources which we can use to teach math concepts to our kids.


I hope you received some fun math ideas for your kids today.